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Mass Effect 3 Review

publisher: EA
developer: Bioware
genre: RPG

ESRB rating: M

release date: Mar 06, 12
» All About Mass Effect 3 on ActionTrip

The third chapter in the Mass Effect series, BioWare's long-running space saga, is here at last. Apart from being one of the most highly anticipated games in 2012, Mass Effect 3 brings about a lot of interesting questions and will probably be a source of great debate for months and years to come. Does the game bring any improvements over the previous two iterations? Is it still an RPG or is it just another shooter? Does the story live up to what BioWare and EA have been promoting relentlessly in the past several months? And finally, does the game give Commander Shepard a proper send off? Join us as we endeavor to answer some of those questions.

The story continues where Mass Effect 2 left off. The ancient and supremely hostile alien race known as the Reapers commenced a full-scale invasion across the galaxy, going from system to system, effectively annihilating all organic life. And yet in spite of Shepard's efforts and warnings about the Reaper invasion, other races continue to squabble amongst themselves. Naturally, while the Asari, Turians, the Krogan and Salarians try to settle old disputes, Shepard, once again, has to step in as the peacemaker, ensuring their unification against this mightiest of all foes. The game starts with Shepard making one of the most difficult choices in his life. Earth is overrun by the Reapers, forcing him to leave his home world to seek military assistance from other races. The player unfolds the narrative from there.

Looking back at the original game, BioWare took some risks, but a lot of those risks paid off. It was a fine game. Of course, the critical and watchful eye of the public still had something negative to say about it. Generally, the first chapter in the Mass Effect sci-fi series represents a great way of blending RPG gameplay mechanics with pure action. The main problem was that most gamers didn't like exploring numerous empty and uninteresting planet surfaces, looking for random hidden relics and resources. The other portion of the public was quite happy with this. After all, in theory, exploring the galaxy may not be as exciting as one might think. In the best case scenario, it would probably involve similar things - you know, scouting for valuable minerals and precious metals, searching for any form of life and so on. Also, digging up alien relics? Well, sure why not. Many of these features, particularly exploration, were set aside in Mass Effect 2, in favor of a more linear, cinematic experience, emphasizing the narrative and character interaction. More prominence was given to action, whereas RPG elements were toned down. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this course of action. At some point, BioWare had to choose between genres, so they went for one that's more popular with kids and teenagers (resisting urge to shoot myself in the foot).

But don't regard Mass Effect 3 as a title that's about to revolutionize gaming as we know it. This title was designed around one simple notion: wrapping up the story of Commander Shepard and his crew. As such, the writers at BioWare have kicked things into high gear. Mind you, one of the main complaints here would be the lack of richer dialogue trees and more options to settle things through conversation. Most conversations seem predetermined and it feels like events will run their course no matter what you say or do. Still, this should be the conclusion of a trilogy, so the conflict is now galaxy-wide and events unfold faster than before. Shepard races from mission to mission, visiting key strategic points on the galaxy map in the hope of gaining some advantage in the war against the Reapers. The game is more fast-paced than both of the previous installments. That doesn't mean there will be little to do. Quite the contrary. Defending the galaxy against the Reapers remains the priority, but there's still room for exploration and side-missions, both of which can easily lead to additional resources, artifacts, weapon upgrades, etc.

The quest system has seen some changes that may not agree with everyone. Truth be told, there is a reasonable amount of missions that aren't related to the main story. Some good, some not so interesting. There's a range of side-quests requiring you to accomplish a certain task, although the game doesn't go into detail how and where you should do this. For example, if someone on the Citadel asks you to find artifacts or advanced weapon tech, you won't have a clue where you should start looking. Instead the game hopes you'll go around exploring star systems, scanning random planets until you find these specific items. As far as quest structure goes, it doesn't get more generic than that.

In addition to being able to customize your character in greater detail, you are also able to choose from several classes - Adept, Soldier, Engineer, Sentinel, Infiltrator, and Vanguard. Unlike its predecessors, Mass Effect 3 offers you a choice between three different game modes: Action, Role-Playing and Story. These won't make much difference, because you're still playing the same game. The Action mode features conversations with automatic replies and a 'normal' combat difficulty, the RPG mode has conversations with manual replies and a 'normal' combat difficulty and the Story mode, offers conversations with manual replies and a 'low' combat difficulty. It almost comes across as a single game with three completely different genres on offer. That's not the case really. No matter how you swing it, Mass Effect 3 is an action game more than anything else. Of course, it retains RPG elements, which are more prominent in the sense that you get more items to fiddle around with - more weapons, additional upgrades, different armor sets and so on. So, yes, character and weapon customization were improved. Also, each skill eventually branches out to two different paths you can take until you've ultimately developed that particular ability to better suit your combat style.

The biggest innovation in this game is the inclusion of a full-fledged class-based multiplayer mode. Players earn credits during sessions and those may be spent on diverse items, as you'd expect (ammo, weapon mods and so forth). There's not a lot we can add about this segment of the game, apart that we thoroughly enjoyed it and that it made us come back for more even after a few hours of play time. It's not the best shooter experience out there, albeit it offers a solid slice of multiplayer action even though it lacks in diversity.

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8.8   Very Good

As far as interactive story-telling goes ME 3 is where it's at, you'll enjoy the sense of scale, you'll enjoy the suspense, new and interesting characters included, terrific level design in most areas this time around, the multipalyer;

Cover mechanics are flawed, some side-quests aren't as gratifying as in previous ME games, a bit more options in the dialogue would've been welcome, as a shooter the game is not quite up to the standards set by other top titles in the genre.


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